Once you reach a certain age, the heliphone starts ringing. It always does around or a while after midnight. Nowadays, it rings more often. Past loves are calling in from the afterlife. The other night it was Amalia.
“I didn’t see you at my funeral. Why didn’t you come? Why not bring me any flowers? After all, we spent some good times together.”
“Oh, dearest Amalia! Your voice sounds just like before. Australia was a bit far for me. Where are you now?”
“Much farther than Australia. You remember that day in the dunes?”
“Wonderful. I often dream of it.”
“So how come you didn’t marry me?”
“Blame it on my immaturity. I didn’t realize how good you would’ve been for me.”
“That figures; you were proposing all over the place after you left me. Are you any happier now?”
“It would’ve been nice to share our lives. If I’d had more than one, I would’ve done it.”
“I’ll keep a seat reserved for you here then. Till soon.”
The heliphone broke off. That “soon” gave me the shivers. I got up and made myself a stiff Martini. What did she know?
Earlier this week, I got another call from Irene.
“Nobody came to my funeral. Only Cindy, you remember, our bridesmaid, and that bloody husband of mine who’d left me alone most of the time. Why did you divorce me? “
“Probably for the same reason your second husband left you alone.”
“We had so much fun together, don’t you remember that sofa?”
“I do, delightful, but you embezzled my money.”
“Come on. All that paper’s just monopoly money. You can’t take it over here.”
“Where’s over here?”
“The purgatory. I don’t know why they put me here. It’s always cold. I spent time enough in jail.”
“Terrible. It surprised me you got married again.”
“I got him the same way I got you.”
“By pretending he’d made me pregnant.”
“Yeah, I remember that. I think purgatory is fine for you.”
The line broke off. I shivered again and took another Lorazepam. Was I lucky I got rid of her. She took all my money and still keeps calling me. That heliphone is a nightmare.
Mid-week wasn’t any better. It was Marilou, the fat girl from Switzerland, who I heard via the grapephone had suddenly passed away.
“I got heart trouble because I was overweight.”
“I’m so sorry, Marilou. I guess you’ve got plenty to eat now and can’t die anymore.”
“I still hate you. You only made love to me in the Alps because you got high rubbing my big boobs. You were a pervert.”
“I remember you telling me that. I broke my back, lifting you all the time because you couldn’t stay up on your skis.”
“I offered you my millions of Swiss Francs, but you only wobbled in between my boobs, said ‘Ahhh,’ and left me.”
“You told me the Swiss tycoon you married did it for your boobs too.”
“He was supposed to go before me. Now he’s got all my money and married an ultra-slim pin-up from Vanity Fair.”
“Are you calling him too?”
“His phone is off the hook. I hate Vanity Fair.”
The heliphone died away. Marilou was one of those sad moments in life you want to forget but keep being reminded of. How did she get my number?
Last night was the worst ever. It was Anita from Norway, my biggest regret in love life.
“I wish I’d married you,” Anita said.
“A bit late to tell me that now. What happened?”
“My husband murdered me.”
“Oh, no! Why?”
“Because I kept dreaming aloud at night mentioning your name, saying that I loved you.”
“I hope they put him on death row.”
“Death row does not exist in my country. But hell does here.”
“Awful. You think I could do anything?”
“Go to his prison and poison him. I want him in hell right now where they’ll knife him with red-burning forks every second.”
“But they’d catch me and put me in prison as well.”
“Don’t worry. I’m told we have our ways up here and I’ll protect you.”
“But I won’t get you back, Anita. What’s the point?”
“You’ll be here soon enough, darling, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
That was enough to whip me into a frenzy, and I swallowed two Lorazepams, but I stayed awake all night, shivering.
* * *
I’m on my way to Oslo now with a dose of cyanide wrapped in foil paper and my heliphone in my pocket to get word where that prison is.
Sitting cramped in my window seat, I wondered why the moon had this mocking smile on his face. My heliphone didn’t ring. Maybe because of secret regulations between Heaven and air traffic control?
I still didn’t know the whereabouts of Anita’s husband’s prison. I stumbled through customs on arrival at dawn. A voice told me that the cab driver would know. “Oslo fengsel,” he confirmed. After going through town, he turned into a long driveway lined by leafless trees and snow-covered grounds, ending at a somber red-stone building. “You wait,” I said and went in. The guards watched me, quizzically. I’d dressed as a priest, my faith-inspiring white-collar shining trustingly behind the white scarf around my neck. I didn’t speak a word of Norwegian but had many times mumbled Anita’s husband’s name, Wilhelm Lassen, that bloody Viking.
I sat in the bare visiting room when Wilhelm Lassen entered, accompanied by a guard, and took the only other seat across the steel table, his face one question mark. The guard left and shut the door. I gazed at Lassen’s hands. As I’d suspected, he didn’t wear rings in prison. I hoped he spoke a bit of English.
“My name’s Father John,” I said. “I’m bringing you a final word from Anita.”
The man’s face grew grey; his lips tightened; his eyes squinted. “Anita dead,” he said with a rolling accent. “I did do nothing. She suffered breath shortage. Who are you?”
“Her confessor when she lived with you in Geneva. She left this small package with me to hand you in case she’d die before you.” I pulled a blue jewelry box from my pocket and handed it to him. In it was a golden ring I’d dipped with a tweezer into a small base with liquid cyanide in the airplane toilet a short while before landing. A friend at a chemical factory gave me the deadly stuff, believing I’d use it to kill persistent mice in my basement. If Wilhelm slid the ring on his finger, his skin would absorb the cyanide, and death would follow soon.
Wilhelm opened the box and stared at it. “My wedding ring?” he asked. “I thought I’d lost it. Rar,” (‘strange’) he muttered. Then he shifted it onto his ring finger, looking sad.
The guard came in and warned me my time was up. I stood, said farewell to Wilhelm, and left as fast as I could. The cab driver took me rapidly to the airport, and I grabbed the first flight out to Amsterdam to erase my footsteps, hopefully having left pandemonium at the Oslo fensel. In Amsterdam, I got the last seat in a crowded United flight to Washington; mission accomplished, I reckoned.
Back home at night, the heliphone rang. It was Anita.
“Thank you, Johnnyboy. He’s nicely burning in Hell, screaming his lungs out.”
“But won’t I be punished?”
“No, you’ll be rewarded in Heaven when you get here in a while. Can’t wait.” Her heavenly voice drifted away.
“Crime pays in the afterlife,” I whispered and fell asleep, uncomfortable about Anita’s eagerness of my forthcoming passing.
Wilhelm’s death was reported as a suicide.
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I stole a Prince
I did not wince
Became a queen
like on the screen
Got a title
that was vital
for a girl
on the swirl
But the palace
was a menace
I acted queen
the press was mean
I swayed Harry
please do marry
but that glamour
made me stammer
Is my life
a parlor wife?
Harry love I said aloud
I got you, but I want out
live a life
sans royal strife
Dear Duchess, so Harry said
that is not why I thee wed
We are the Crown
white and brown
unite the monarchy
and do so honorably
My dear Prince the Duchess said
that is not why I thee wed
I want the glamour
and the manor
but not the functions
and boring luncheons
Then, dear Dutchess, Prince Harry spoke
you tell grandma you got woke
The Dutchess did
but got a fit
She lost her title
and went from idol
back to Markle
Must pay rent
for their cottage tent
Grandma Beth now says goodbye
When you feel like, please drop by
Harry Meghan on to where?
A money future, with Opra flair?
The Friends are back from winter sport, year-end festivities, dinners by candlelight, romance and family gatherings at the Christmas tree and the fireplace. All are in a good mood to face the challenges of 2020. Of course, like everybody else, they are bewildered about how wildly Congress spends their tax dollars on wasteful politics.
Frank: “Let’s do a game. I name a person or a subject, and each of you typifies it. Here we go: “Impeachment.” Melissa, you first.”
Melissa: “Protection of the Constitution. Nobody is above the law.”
Frank: “Any nobody in particular?”
Melissa: “Trump, of course.”
Cindy: “What did he do above the law?”
Melissa: “Omit asking Congress permission to talk to Zelensky and when he did anyway he undermined Biden’s credibility for his political benefit.”
Frank: “Mary, is that ‘above the law’?”
Mary: “I don’t give a hoot. I don’t like people listening in to my telephone calls in the first place to tell the world what I said, blame me for something, and then take me to court. To me, that’s above the law.”
Caitlyn: “I agree. Congress has been trying to impeach for three years, and set up a spy ring in the White House, doing everything to find something they could finally impeach Trump for. That’s political spying on the White House and that’s above the law.”
Frank: Next one, whistleblower? Mary?”
Mary: “A windbag! A traitor. He won’t pay my gas bill with his tricks. This guy was a dirty CIA spy. Trump now knows he can’t trust anybody working with him. How is he going to talk to any world leader now?”
Fred: “What’s a whistleblower? Someone who blows up something. He did but for what good.”
Melissa: “He brought abuse of power to light, Fred.”
Fred: “Abuse? If somebody in your office secretly worked to undermine your career, wouldn’t you request your personnel officer to dig into that? I would!”
Melissa: “In Trump’s case, that’s election fraud.”
Caitlyn: “What about the Democrat senators who contributed to Burisma gas? And the Obama administration supporting Ukrainian gas and blocking ours?”
Frank: “Good point, Caitlyn. Next one: ‘Shifty Shiff’. Ted, you haven’t said anything so far. Go!”
Ted: ” ‘Slimy Schiff’. Ever seen such a face? Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, wonderful couple, with Schumer as their godfather granddad. LA has become a swamp.”
Melissa: “Wrong. I was there last week. Everybody lives happily together, rich and poor, rags to riches.”
Jason enters with a plate full of beer. “I heard that, Melissa. What about the poop on your doorstep?”
Frank: “Okay, next one: ‘The Impeachment Process.’ Cindy, you’re a lawyer, what’s your take?”
Cindy: “A Ramshackle. These so-called House prosecutors would be laughed out of my courtroom. The requirements are ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ They couldn’t come up with any arguments to support these crimes. So they made up their own. So it’s doomed to fail.”
Ted: “Ukraine is a murky country, least developed, one of the worst corruption cases on the Richter scale. When it seceded from the USSR at its collapse, it did not get rid of the stereotype Russian corruption.”
Caitlyn: “Still, Obama gave them soft military aid. Why wouldn’t we make sure that our tax dollars are going to be used efficiently and for the purpose intended, in particular, if you give them more money with lethal aid?”
Frank: “Right. And what had those Bidens to do with all that tax money? They were in the midst of the corruption business, as Biden eminently displayed on TV. If there was any quid pro quo it’s that one.”
Ted: “The Democrat party has lowered the bar for impeachment to a political football. What will happen if Biden gets elected?”
Cindy: “Obvious. The Republicans will impeach him for Quid Pro Quo on day one.”
Frank: “There you go. So, what about Rudy Juliani? Melissa?”
Melissa: “An Ukrainian crook. Bolton called him an unpinned hand grenade ready to explode.”
Caitlyn: “Juliani’s statements on TV sound like a Vince Flynn novel. There’s a lot more dirt on the Ukrainian side than we ever want to know.”
Frank: “Does anyone want a presidential candidate who contributed our hard-earned tax dollars to Ukrainian crooks? Scream “yes” or “no”.
All friends, even Melissa, scream “No!”
(Confidential information: Melissa votes for Bernie Sanders…)
Frank: “Last question: Nicknames for Democrat candidates. We already have Pocahontes for Warner, Sleepy Joe for Biden, The Nutty Professor for Sanders, what about Buttiegek? Caitlyn?”
Caitlyn: “Bootiecrack? Bootiequack?”
Frank: “Vote for Bootiecrack? Say aye.”
A few say “Aye.”
Frank: “Vote for Bootiequack?”
An overwhelming “Aye.” The Friends hoist their glasses.
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The Friends are gathered in the Hullahoo Bar for their Christmas drinks despite last week’s acrimonious debate. The bar is festive, decorated with a brilliant Christmas tree, bells along the walls, and joyful Christmas carols playing in the background.
Let’s listen in.
Melissa: “Sure I am frustrated! Pelosi should have sent the impeachment to the Senate! But she may be smarter than Coalminer McConnell.”
Frank: “I told you the whole thing was a prank to drug her left-wing.”
Mary: “You mean she’s not going to pass it on after all the fireworks?”
Frank: “She doesn’t need to. Critics on TV say she’s making herself more and more ridiculous, but I think she’s foxier than you think: Her majority, even though diminished, got what they wanted all along, they got Trump “impeached”, quote-unquote. So they went home to jubilate and overdose at the Democrat Christmas tree.”
Mary: “She just ditches it? But that’s making havoc of the impeachment process!”
Cindy: “I agree with you but also with Frank. Pelosi knows the art of double-crossing. She satisfied her left, gave Trump a black eye, and moves on with the business of signing on to the Trade Deal and the budget, as if nothing happened, to give manna to her more moderate followers in the swing states.”
Ted: “But that leaves the Senate waiting for nops!”
Tom: “Waiting for Godot, you mean.”
Caitlyn: “She calculates that by the next November elections nobody remembers all the fuss.”
Cindy: “She keeps it as a harbinger and she’ll use it each time when she needs it to annoy Trump.”
Fred: “But that’s hyper Machiavellic! Utter hypocrisy!”
Caitlyn: “Hypocrisy and politics are synonymous, Fred.”
Melissa: “Times should have named Pelosi the Woman of the Year. She managed to schmooze her left and right at the same time, and walk away unscathed.”
Fred: “But what happens next? She’s keeping a sword of Damocles hanging over everyone!”
Melissa: “Only over Trump and the Republican Party. I bet she’ll keep the house and remain Speaker, when a Democratic President is elected.”
Mary: “And a Democratic Senate, so that I get my free rent. And then she can convict Trump and remove him from office with her Senate majority if he gets re-elected.”
Jason, bringing in new beers, turns around: “Don’t keep dreaming, Mary, my job offer is still open! Join and you can pay your rent!”
Tom: “Who would otherwise pay your rent, Mary? Me, the poor taxpayer?”
Mary: “I’ll vote for Bloomberg. He’s got money enough and will pay. He got me a free soda last time!”
Jason, going back to tap more beer: “You can’t live on soda’s alone, Mary!”
Caitlyn: “The Dems won’t nominate another billionaire. Besides, Bloomberg has no charisma. Trump would make marshmallow soup of him.”
Melissa: “For once I agree with you. Biden is a far better fighter.”
Fred: “Ha, ha! Biden said he would beat Trump in the back alley of a prom! He can only bite his wife’s fingers. Give me a break.”
Frank: “And what would Biden do to Trump in the debates, Melissa?”
Caitlyn: “Let me answer that. He’d choose truth over facts, look for smart, abolish chest-thumping on Twitter, and share America’s lunch with China.”
Tom: “And put Hunter back on the Burisma board.”
Mary: “And pay for my gas bill! Shut down fracking and import all we need from Ukraine.”
Jason comes by with a tray full of drinks, and says: “There’s somebody in the back again who pays for all this!”
The friends turn their heads. It’s President Trump this time, smiling broadly.
President Trump: “Hey guys! You see! I am not impeached!”
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The Friends are mad. Their chats at the Hullahoo Bar have become louder and louder. Everybody’s mad nowadays. Even the waitresses. There we go again.
Frank, from one side of the counter: “That’s so typical, Melissa! When you lose your argument, you start calling us names. So I am a misogynist, a bigot, a homophobe, a white supremacist, a racist, what have you. Well, your tribe’s a bunch of leftist hooligans that destroy America!”
Melissa, from the other side of the counter: “You destroy America! We want Medicare for all, you dump Obamacare, and we’ll all die of the climate change you started!”
Ted: “You, Melissa, belong to that loony Alinsky bomber crowd of community organizers that want to fundamentally change America! We heard Obama say that.”
Tom: “Yeah, elections have consequences, he said. Well, we had new elections! We, the irredeemables, want to keep it the Founders’ way!”
Melissa: “You’re so wrong. What did those Founders know then anyways! Socialism is good for all, look at Sweden. You are zealots, wackos and have been doing a nutjob. You’re obstructing the welfare state!”
Tom: “Nonsense! Sweden is not even socialist, but a market economy with a hefty welfare system paid for by high taxes.”
Caitlyn: “A country of ten million people, less than New York State, and we have 330 million. Their system wouldn’t work here and they’re trying to trim it down because it’s too costly.”
Ted: “Melissa’s side screams that the rich will pay for everything and then there won’t be any rich left and we’ll all end up miserables and deplorables!”
Mary, loud and shrill: “I’m miserable already, so I don’t give a hoot if the rich get miserable too!”
Cindy, even louder: “Why don’t you commies and socialists all move to Russia and China, and see for yourself what misery means. Leave us alone with our hard-earned freedom and prosperity!”
Caitlyn: “No, better you move to Greenland and start your Kibutz in zero temperatures there without stealing our tax money!”
Ted: “All you commies want is equality and free goods. Sounds so nice in the beginning until tyranny takes over and life becomes one stinkhole for all!”
Tom: “Except for those in power who live like the rich they destroyed. It has been tried many times over and failed. Look at Venezuela. Get wise!”
Waitress Jane: “If you want your beer, Mr. Wise, you better give me your tip first before you run out of money.”
Tom: “Thanks Jane, but with Melissa’s socialism we have already run out of money. And you haven’t even smiled.”
Jane: “Here’s your beer, Mister!” Jane plunks the glass down, fakes a smile, scoffs, trots away, kicking her splendid bottom left and right.
Melissa, from the other side of the counter: “You see, Tom, how you treat Jane, misogynist!”
Caitlyn: “You know how you were born Melissa?”
Melissa: “What you mean?”
Caitlyn: “Well, I presume your mom and dad made love, no? Was he sexist and misogynist too?”
Melissa, shouting: “You’re changing the subject, Caitlyn. We have different times now!”
Frank: “Precisely! Your socialist communal band of hippies wants us to live in shabby tents, pee and excrete on the street, and yell at each other!”
Mary: “I live in a one-bedroom shack with mice and cockroaches skirting over the floor because I can’t find a job!”
Frank: “Crazy, there’re six million job offers to be filled. Ever looked around?”
Jason, putting a beer in front of Mary: “If you need a job, come over, Mary, you’ll earn good bucks here with your smile to pay for a better place.”
Mary: “If Trump hadn’t stolen the election, us people would’ve had a free home from Hillary!”
Ted, crooning: “Take that Jason offer, Mary! One more woman employed, the highest number since decades!”
Mary: “I don’t want to be employed by the Trump machine, the way he talks about women. He must be impeached.”
Caitlyn: “That’s all you guys want, impeach, impeach! You’ve been screaming that since he was elected. Ever thought about what America wants?”
Melissa, shouting: “We want one party for the U. S.! Democrats are good enough for democratsy.”
Frank: “Okay, Melissa, go take a ride on Biden’s Malarkey bus.”
Melissa: “It’s ‘No Malarkey’, buthead!”
Frank: “Would Biden know the difference?”
Jason comes to the counter: “There’s somebody in the back offering free drinks, except large sodas.”
Everybody looks to the back.
It’s Mike Bloomberg in jacket and tie, waving and smiling.
All Friends cheer and order more beers and double small sodas.
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